Arkhan the Black
"You've read the signs as well as I. Nagash must rise, or our kingdoms of silence will fall. And yours will be the first."
- – Arkhan the Black
"One has to pay dearly for immortality; one has to die several times while one is still alive."
- – Friedrich Nietzsche
Arkhan the Black is the first and most loyal follower of Nagash, who somehow went from a wastrel in a minor noble family to a super-badass necromancer-warrior. He has decimated kingdoms as Araby never fully recovered from the war he waged against it following Nagash's first death. Due to his power he has fought for and against many of the Tomb Kings as a warlord-for-hire.
Before 8th edition and the End Times he had no personality beyond being Nagash's right hand lich. He came back as a playable character in the 8th Edition Tomb Kings armybook, with the stirrings of his plan to bring back Nagash. The End Times were surprisingly kind to Arkhan. Following this, he's now an introspective, mercantile smartass, Warhammer Fantasy's first Hero Killer and he kind-of gets the girl (see below). To wit, he's the first playable Special Character to kill off other playable Special Characters and during the End Times he has the highest body count of all of them.
He has a voice actor now! While not as ideal as Vincent Price would have been, rest his soul, the one we have is fantastic. See below for more.
Born thousands of years ago, back when Nehekhara was a kingdom of the living, Arkhan was originally a member of a noble family in Khemri during the reign of king Thutep. Despite his lineage he was the black sheep of the family, more interested in gambling, drugs, back-alley brawls and whore-mongering (turns out the temple of Asaph did ritual prostitution, but reputedly he had to pay double before any of the priestesses went near him). He earned the nickname "the Black" as a human from his appalling dental hygiene and his love of chewing juseh root, which reduced his teeth to black shards. However, all depictions of his skeleton form have him with normal, bone-white teeth, implying that Nagash has a very good dental plan. Maybe that's why he's so loyal to him.
Vizier of Khemri
When Nagash sought a cabal of followers to assist him in usurping the throne of Khemri he found them in Arkhan and his compatriots. In particular they were convinced by a demonstration of his newly created art of necromancy. The group supported Nagash by kidnapping victims off the street, this served to both supply Nagash with bodies for his experiments and to undermine his brother’s rule. Arkhan and the others started to learn rudiments of necromancy themselves during this time, and he was the first of Nagash's followers to partake of the elixir which granted eternal life, becoming the first of Nagash’s so-called "Immortals".
When Nagash finally usurped his brother’s throne, declaring himself king of Khemri, Arkhan was appointed his vizier. In response the Priest Kings of Nehekhara formed an alliance against Nagash, and Arkhan served as the great necromancer's foremost lieutenant in the struggle that followed. Battle after battle was waged, but inevitably the more numerous forces of the Priest Kings proved too much, and Nagash and his armies were forced back into the city of Khemri.
Arkhan is officially credited with leading the suicidal counterattack that allowed Nagash to escape the Army of the Seven Kings, single-handedly holding them off with spell-casting and swordplay for an hour before his death. There are different accounts of events across the editions of Warhammer:
- Some random schmo managed to hit Arkhan in the heart with a thrown spear and Arkhan's body was consumed by black flames, leaving behind a skeleton. While the Nehekharans destroyed the bodies of Nagash's other followers, they didn't desecrate Arkhan's remains out of respect for his badass last stand and simply built a stone cairn over them (first version).
- Same as before, except instead of respect for his last stand the Nehekharans built the cairn and didn't desecrate Arkhan's body because Arkhan gave a curse with his dying breath that anyone who touched his bones would die horribly (second version).
- Lamashizzar snuck up on Arkhan, carrying a prototype Cathayan gun. He used this to shoot Arkhan in the heart and incapacitate him for transport to Lahmia. The "throwing spear to the heart from an unknown soldier" was a cover story made up by Lamashizzar (most recent version, and canon as of the End Times).
Imprisonment in Lahmia
After his defeat, Arkhan and Nagash's nine books were smuggled to Lahmia. There Arkhan was restored to unlife and kept as a prisoner of Lamashizzar and W'soran to teach them Nagash's magic. Lahmashizzar was not smart, and while W'soran was a capable student, he kept what he learnt to himself. Lacking magical ability, Lamashizzar brought in his sister Neferata to aid in the lessons. One day, Neferata visited Arkhan herself and chatted with him. She wanted Arkhan to teach her as well, and used her charm to try and persuade him. To everyone's surprise, including her own, Neferata sympathized with the imprisoned lich and formed a genuine rapport with him that grew into something more. Arkhan gladly taught her magic (when Neferata offered a reward, Arkhan only asked for the chance to ride a horse with silver bells on its harness through the desert at night) until she was able to overthrow Lamashizzar and take the throne for herself with the king reduced to a figurehead under her thumb.
This turned out to be a grave error however when the king, still supported by many members of the cabal, tried to have Neferata assassinated with a deadly magical poison. Arkhan tried to save Neferata, but his methods reacted with Neferata's blood and she appeared to die. Furious and determined to have his revenge, Arkhan snuck into the royal palace and assassinated Lamashizzar in return. The king’s bodyguard Abhorash, though too slow to save his king, beheaded Arkhan in personal combat for his crime. Unbeknown to Arkhan his magic in fact had saved Neferata and turned her into the first vampire. She took charge with her brother dead, then had Arkhan's corpse discretely but respectfully buried in the Lahmian necropolis.
As the Liche King
Many years later Nagash, now secured in his northern fortress Nagashizzar, decided to take his revenge on the Priest Kings of Nehekhara. Although generations had passed, he had not forgotten his most loyal lieutenant. Knowing he would soon have need of him Nagash had Arkhan rise from his tomb and join him in the north. Once again he led his master’s forces against the united Priest Kings. During this time, Arkhan formed a bitter rivalry with W'soran. The former thought the latter was overconfident, the latter thought the former was a coward. They two often argued; when they weren't disagreeing on the best way to conduct the battles, they bickered over which of them was the better wizard, which form of undeath was best or who was Nagash's favorite. Between their mutual animosity and the great leadership and military prowess of king Alcadizaar of Khemri, they were unsuccessful despite a long campaign.
When Nagash enacted the first part of his Great Ritual, Arkhan commanded Nagash's undead army once more and this time easily defeated the plague riddled Nehekharans, taking Alcadizaar prisoner. Staying in Khemri to take control of Nagash’s supreme army of the whole undead Nehekharan nation when the second part of the ritual was cast, he instead was forced to flee when Nagash’s assassination left the risen kings with their own willpower. United under Settra, the wrath of the Tomb Kings was simply too great.
Intent on wreaking vengeance on the living for the death of his master, Arkhan ransacked Nagashizzar (fighting his long time rival W’Soran and other returned Immortals in the process) he then turned his army towards Araby, and for generations battered its kingdoms in what Arabian chroniclers would come to call the Wars of Death. Inhabiting the desert wastes that surround Araby, Arkhan would lead his armies upon an Arabian city, razing it to the ground before withdrawing again to the deserts.
Later he established himself once again in Nehekhara in his fortess of old, the Black Tower. From here his repeated raids and incursions, while not a major threat, soon became more than just a mere nuisance. Repeatedly Settra would be forced to do battle with Arkhan and whilst he had a vastly superior sense of strategy and better troops at his command their battles always resulted in a stalemate as Settra could never hope to match the great necromantic power of Arkhan. Therefore Arkhan would submit to Settra's authority and swear fealty before once again defying him just a few short years later. This stalemate might have been broken had the other Tomb Kings assisted but Settra was too proud to ask for their help and most considered Arkhan a valuable, if untrustworthy, ally. These constant battles against Settra did serve to improve Arkhan's sense of strategy through trial and error.
Over the following centuries, Arkhan busied himself with hunting down various treasures of Nagash in order to serve his master on the day of his return. However, for some reason, he didn’t re-join Nagash when he was resurrected and engaged in his northwards campaign against Sigmar.
Arkhan had for a long time foreseen the End Times coming and knew Nagash was one of the few beings who could be relied upon to defeat the Chaos Gods. Nagash himself also recognized this threat, and fast-tracked his plans for restoration by several centuries by telling Arkhan to get to work. In order to restore Nagash he needed to gain many of the items Nagash had imbued with his power over the years. Already possessing a number of his Nine books, Arkhan sought Nagash’s staff. By allying himself with Khalida of Lybaras to attack the vampire lord Mandregan in Sylvania, Arkhan acquired one of Nagash’s lesser staffs, and soon learned the location of his primary staff Alakanesh; Bretonnia. Though being undead and serving Nagash dulled his emotions, he's still in love with Queen Neferata.
The End Times
With the coming of The End Times, Arkhan made his move. To try and find Nagash's staff he backed Mallobaude's coup with resulted in Bretonnia's civil war, which was a failure for Arkhan due to the intervention of the Wood Elves and the return of Giles Le Breton. Since he already had two of Nagash's books, he entered Sylvanvia seeking the rest of them, but Mannfred took exception. After an amazing duel that resulted in a stalemate, they called a truce and the two formed an alliance. After much politicking, they arranged the plan to retrieve Nagash's treasures, with him and Mannfred leading several armies. Arkhan was the one who broke them out of the Wall of Faith trapping them in Sylvania through an ancient ritual; Mannfred had the power but lacked the knowledge of how to use it. The second time Arkhan tried to retrieve the staff he had to kill Kemmler for it because the necromancer had betrayed Nagash to serve the Chaos Gods. In the battle Arkhan lost one of the few things he cared about, a zombified cat he had adopted. Despite repeated assassination attempts from Beastmen led by Malagor and Mannfred's vampire knights, Arkhan succeeded and Nagash returned to the world.
During this time, Arkhan also established himself as a Hero Killer, killing Kemmler (magical duel), the Fey Enchantress (slit her throat and bled her out as the sacrifice to bring Nagash back), Eltharion (aged to dust by magic) and Nekaph (incinerated by magic). During the war for Nehekhara he took all the undead in Nagashizzar and conquered Mahrak and Quatar, the latter in a big offscreen battle that's barely alluded to. At Khemri he was the visible commander of Nagash's armies and managed to do alright despite being outmatched. Eventually he was cut in half by Settra, who'd had enough of him by that point, and magically smuggled Nagash into Khemri within his own body (Arkhan's bisected body was taken to ritual that was supposed to stop Arkhan from being brought back, but one of the priests went quisling for Nagash). After the battle for Khemri ended with Settra's defeat and its destruction, Arkhan was made whole again and permitted to go to war wherever he wanted at the behest of his master once more. Now the Mortarch of Sacrament, riding the Dread Abyssal Razarak, The Doom of Traitors, Arkhan still serves Nagash with dedication in his actions... though for the first time in millennia he started having second thoughts.
When Nagash entered his sarcophagus to absorb the wind of death after conquering Nehekhara, Arkhan led the undead in his absence. When Isabella and the Nameless attacked, Arkhan showed some tactical savvy and organized the defense, but was defeated after a vicious fight with Isabella and killed. After the destruction of the Black Pyramid Nagash was furious over Arkhan's failure, but knew Arkhan was reliable and intelligent so Nagash restored him and Krell. When Nagash travelled to Athel Loren to work with the living, Arkhan was silent but snickering to himself about the irony of Nagash's situation. Apart from some witty banter with Vlad, Arkhan only speaks because Nagash doesn't want to, making Arkhan in effect the Mouth of Sauron. After a fight with the forces of the Chaos Gods, the Incarnates and their forces are sent to Middenheim. Arkhan helps co-ordinate Nagash's army, then Throgg came with an army of monsters. Nagash told Arkhan to take two Morghast hosts and hold them until dead. When Arkhan asked for any further instructions he sensed Nagash's doubt before Nagash said, "DIE WELL MY SERVANT." and abandoned him. Though it ends with Arkhan fighting, it's repeated that it's a fight he can't win.
In the Lord of the End Times novel, after the Incarnates fail to stop the rift, Neferata encountered Arkhan with an unconscious Isabella. Arkhan had survived Nagash's last order and driven back the army of Chaos monsters (with the unexpected help of Settra) but he was battered. Arkhan told her that Aliathra's magic gave him a vision of a mysterious figure who could save/restore the world even after it was destroyed, and that he would help them if he could. Arkhan then showed her his slowly disintegrating hand; with Nagash's destruction Arkhan was dying as well. He bade Neferata flee and try to avoid the world's destruction, and take Isabella with her, stating he thought it was possible she could survive the end of the world. Neferata kissed him, took Isabella and fled while Arkhan tried to buy her time with his magic. As Neferata escaped, there was a last burst of purple magic and she could no longer sense him and grieved, thinking him destroyed (OTP confirmed).
Age of Sigmar
With the world's reconstruction in Age of Sigmar, Arkhan's back! He's bound to Nagash and it's confirmed while Nagash exists, so does Arkhan. He fought alongside Nagash when the latter was allied with Sigmar, and followed him after Nagash's betrayal. When Nagash fell against Archaon, Arkhan led the counterattack where Nagash's body was retrieved along with thwarting the treachery of Prince Vhordai. However, the novel Nagash: The Undying King implies that he is not the same. Now Arkhan seems to have no memory of the previous world. One theory was that this is not the original Arkhan; either a construct made from Nagash's memory of Arkhan or another person who took up the mantle (like one of the theories about Farsight before it was revealed he's the same guy with life-stealing sword). Now it's either he simply has a creation-of-a-new-world hangover that made him forget his previous life or Nagash stole some of Arkhan's memories. In the novel Soul Wars, it's confirmed that this is the original Arkhan and he's at least partially playing dumb. He plays the loyal servant so well that the other Mortarchs, and occasionally Nagash himself, forget that he's his own person and not just a neutral avatar of Nagash. This lets him get away with making his own moves in their endless politicking almost entirely undetected.
Arkhan was at Nagash's side when the latter abandoned Sigmar's alliance and during the fights against the forces of Chaos. When Nagash was killed by Archaon in the Battle of Burning Skies, it was Arkhan who thwarted Vhordrai's treacherous attempt to give Nagash to the Chaos Gods. Arkhan defeated the vampire and imprisoned him in a gravestone sarcophagus until Nagash returned. He also showed up in the Age of Sigmar audio book "The Bridge of Seven Sorrows" complete with a voice actor. He'd stayed in Stygx when Mannfred and the Stormcasts of the Hallowed Knights entered to find Nagash. They are stopped at the the other side of the bridge by Arkhan and his steed, Razanak. Arkhan called Mannfred schemer, ingrate and fearful before ordering him to leave. Tarsus started to give his message, but Arkhan told them he knew it was from Sigmar, that Nagash didn't want to hear it or have anything to do with Sigmar and ordered the Stormcast Eternals to leave or he'd be forced to kill them. When they persisted Arkhan seemed to admire them, but still summoned seven banshees to kill the Stormcasts, staying on the sidelines until Mannfred attacked him with Arkhan fighting back with relish. Arkhan managed to beat Mannfred back then Tarsus joined the duel and forced Arkhan onto the defensive. Mannfred took advantage of the distraction to cut of Arkhan's sword hand, run him through and hurl him against the bridge. Despite his injuries Arkhan wasn't vanquished, but got to his feet and explained that the entire confrontation was a test. Shortly after Nagash himself arrived to handle the situation and Arkhan stood aside to let Nagash handle things.
Later on Arkhan inadvertently helped the Stormcast by trying to capture Mannfred while he's dueling the Relictor Ramus. Mannfred fled and Arkhan claimed to have a message from Sigmar.
He was also present with the third meeting of the Stormcast Eternals seeking Nagash's help, where he pretended to lose control of a terrorgheist as part of a test Nagash had for them. Later, Arkhan provided undead reinforcements when they went to thwart Mannfred's latest schemes. After pushing back the forces of Chaos, Arkhan was put in charge of gathering gravestone for Nagash's Great Black Pyramid. During this time, Arkhan's revealed to have his own plan to deal with Chaos. Arkhan was trying to use the renewed conflict between Ayr and Shyish to manipulate both Nagash and Sigmar into joining forces against Chaos, as he figured that after the two gods slap each other around a bit and vent their anger that they'll eventually kiss and make up enough to unite against Chaos again (which is lampshaded by Mannfred). Arkhan correctly surmised that the Chaos Gods would only take the renewed conflict between them as a moment to strike again after their defeats in the realmgate wars and noted that the Pantheon had made their biggest gains against Chaos when united. One gets the impression that since becoming undead Arkhan would've been quite the noble and clever hero if he wasn't loyal to an omnicidal sociopathic god.
On the Tabletop
As a Tomb King
Arkhan's a spellcaster, first and foremost. Though he can only use spells from the Lore of Death, his copy of the Liber Mortis makes him a level 5 caster (though he loses a level, and thus a random spell, if it ever gets destroyed), and his Staff of Nagash lets him convert three dispel dice from one turn into three fresh power dice in the next turn. Like a Tomb King, he has the Nehekharan Undead, Flammable and "The Curse" special rules.
Fluffwise, Arkhan's supposed to be good in melee as well as a caster, and his Tomb Blade of Arkhan, which restores wounds to a unit he's with for each unsaved wound he inflicts on an enemy unit, would seem to support this. Statwise... not so much. At Strength and Toughness 5 and with 3 Wounds, he might seem survivable, but with only light armor for protection and a Weapon Skill of only 4, backed by three Initiative 3 attacks, it really isn't worth it. Especially not when he costs 360 points, takes up a Lord slot, and can potentially be your Hierophant.
If you feel you really need the magical offense, he's not a bad choice in a higher value game, but making him your Hierophant is a pretty bad move, since he can't use any of the Lore of Nehekhara spells that a Hierophant is supposed to use. He's also got the option to ride a flying chariot; using it is inadvisable.
As Mortarch of Sacrament
So, how does Arkhan change in the Undead Legion? He costs 650 points, loses Flammable, loses the Curse, is a Monster (Special Character), and has gained +1 Toughness, +5 Wounds and +4 Attacks. His Tomb Blade now only restores his own health and he's traded the Liber Mortis and Staff of Nagash for the Staff of Spirits, which operates much the same as his old staff (can sacrifice two Power Dice in one magic phase and then apply them to a spell in the next magic phase). He can Fly, is a Large Target, causes Terror, is Undead, rolls a D6 at the end of any Close Combat phase in which he's caused a Wound and recovers a lost Wound of his own if he rolls a 6, he reduces the wounds he suffers due to Unstable by -1 (in addition to any other modifiers), can march as normal, and doubles the points worth of models he summons when casting spells from the Lore of Undeath, including the additional points generated by Raise the Dead counters. He's a level 4 caster who can generate any combination of spells he wishes (that is, four from one, or two from each, or three from one and a fourth from the other) from both the Lore of Death and the Lore of Undeath. If this makes him sound like a mini-Nagash, that's because he pretty much is - While Nagash is awesome and can do awesome things, he's 1000 pt, so Arkhan is like a budget version of him, with lesser, although still powerful versions of his abilities. Take him if you don't want Nagash to fill up half your army and when you want room for other dudes and dudettes.
In Total War Warhammer
He's finally in a video game! Added with the Tomb Kings expansion DLC for Total War Warhammer II, Arkhan the Black is the odd duck out of the playable tomb kings. He plays much more like one of the bad guy factions such as the Vampire Counts, Greenskins, Dark Elves, Skaven, or one of the three Chaos factions in that you're really not going to be doing a lot of diplomacy. All of the other Tomb Kings dislike you and you're almost certainly going to ruffle the feathers of Kroq-Gar, Teclis, Thorgrim, and Skrolk due to your proximity. Your only half-way decent relationships are with the Vampire counts; two of whose factions are squatting in Nehekharan territory you'd probably want for yourself, the Greenskins who should probably never be trusted, the Vampire Coast who are mostly out for themselves, and maybe the Dark Elves won't totally hate you but you have little reason to interact with any of them besides Lokhir anyway.
In exchange for having most of the factions near him being hostile to him, you get to patch some holes in the Tomb King Roster with Dire Wolves, Felbats, Crypt Ghouls and breaking the mould of kind of meh early game trash fodder; FUCKING HEXWRAITHS. Probably a bit underwhelming all things told as he's still lacking in what the Tomb Kings are really missing; an air game which could be provided by Vargheists and Terrorgheists, on demand healing from mortis engines, necromancers, the lore of vampires, or corpse carts, and anti-armour infantry in the form of cairn wraiths or great weapon grave guard but hey; take what you can get. Arkhan himself though is a pretty powerful lord who's actually quite strong in melee, gets access to a spooky looking floating chariot to ignore most terrain penalties, and perhaps most importantly gets access to the lore of
If there is any down side to him, it's that CA went with the most gravelly voice actor one could imagine and changed his appearance slightly to still have some dessicated skin clinging to him instead of his canonically completely flesh stripped bones. However, he provides a fun campaign for either the Vortex or the Mortal Empires maps and given that if you're playing Arkhan you probably don't give a shit about diplomacy anyway, feel free to gank whomever's got the Sword of Khaine before going apeshit bananas with the sword of murderfuck and laugh as you basically delete any unit you charge with him and smiting any fools who aren't dead yet with either the purple sun of xerus or the sword of khaine's vortex. So far, Arkhan equipped with the Sword of Khaine is the closest you can get to the experience of playing as Nagash himself.
Arkhan the Black back in the day.
Arkhan's first model (surprisingly less derpy than his master's original model).
|The Tomb Kings of Warhammer Fantasy|
|Characters:||Settra the Imperishable - Queen Khalida - Nagash|
|Appearances:||Blood Bowl - Dreadfleet - Mordheim - Warhammer Fantasy Battle|